New trade program offers career alternatives for Volusia high school students

‘Tools for Trades’ program at Pine Ridge High School opens doors for those interested in learning skilled trades

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – While most high school students prepare for a four-year college education, a growing number of them are trying their hand at old and new skilled trades that are in demand.

Pine Ridge High School in Volusia County has opened the door to multiple skilled trade options that could lead to $100,000-plus salaries in specific trades.

Northern Tool CEO Suresh Krishna told News 6 his company has started donating tools to 17 U.S. high schools so students can get a real-time experience in everything from welding to programming robots for manufacturing.

“We’re not against four-year college,” Krishna said. “We’re just saying people need to have a choice and they need to make an informed choice.”

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Jane Kriner, 15, has been welding for two years under the guidance of her father. Now she is learning the finer points of the trade with the help of class teacher and veteran tradesman Javier Vega Garcia.

Why welding?

“I don’t know, I just really like it,” Kriner said with a smile. “I was planning on going to trade school, doing this as a job would be fun.”

Vega Garcia, who was the youngest welder at Universal Studios at age 45, told News 6 the teen is the best welder in the school’s advanced manufacturing class.

He added the need to recruit the next generation of skilled trades workers has become a challenge in unions across the country.

Krishna said the shortage of skilled trades workers is what convinced him to offer state of the art equipment to high schools.

“Right now, for trades jobs that are available, the number that we have heard is about 3 million jobs,” Krishna said.

The median age for trades professionals is 55 years old, so within the next five to ten years, Krishna said we may be looking at 8 to 10 million job openings coast to coast.

Christopher Godek, a tenth grader at the school, is working on a mini version of a robot arm used in auto manufacturing assembly lines.

“Throughout my life, I have been interested in computers and robots,” Godek said. “You can make quite a bit of money. That’s why we have our teacher here so we can learn and go on to a job straight out of high school.”

Krishna said the most compelling part of the training is the fact that students who are signing up for class come from every walk of life.

“I think the education here is multifold” Krishna told News 6. “These are great jobs, this is what built America, and this is what’s needed for America’s future as well.”

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News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.